« ElőzőTovább »
the title page, the sale of Cellini was prohibited; the court of Rome has actually made it an article in their Index Expurgatorius, and prevented the importation of the book into any country where the power of the Holy See prevails.
The life of Benvenuto Cellini is certainly a phenomenon in biography, whether we consider it with respect to the artist hiinself, or the great variety of historical facts which relate to others; it is indeed a very good supplement to the history of Europe, during the greatest part of the sixteenth century, more especially in what relates to painting, sculpture, and architecture, and the most eminent masters in those elegant arts, whose works Cellini praises or censures with peculiar freedom and energy
As to the man himself, there is not perhaps a more singular character among the race of Adam ; the admired lord Herbert of Cherbury scarce equals Cellini in the number of peculiar qualities which separate him from the rest of the huinan species.
He is at once a man of pleasure, and a slave to superstition ; a despiser of vulgar notions, and a believer in magical incantations ; a fighter of duels, and a composer of divine sonnets ; an ardent lover of truth, and a retailer of visionary fancies; an admirer of papal power, and a hater of popes; an offender against the laws, with a strong reliance on divine providence. If I may be al. lowed the expression, Cellini is one striking feature added to the human form ; a prodigy to be wondered at, not an exampte to be imitated.
Though Cellini was so blind to his own imperfections as to commit the most unjustifiable actions, with a full persuasion of the goodness of his cause and the rectitude of his intention, yet no man was a keener and more accurate observer of the blemishes of others; hence his book abounds with sarcastic wit and satirical expression. Yet though his portraits are sometimes grotesque and over charged, from misinformation, from melancholy, from infirmity, and from peculiarity of humour; in general it must be allowed that they are drawn from the life, and conformable to the idea given by cotemporary wri. ters. His character of pope Clement the seventh, Paul the third, and his bastard son Pier Luigi ; Francis the first and his favourite mistress madam d'Estampes ; Cosmo duke of Florence, and his duchess, with many others, are touched by the hand of a master.
General history cannot descend to minute details of the domestic life and private transactions, the passions and foibles of great personages; but these give truer representations of their characters than all the elegant and laboured compositions of poets and historians.
To some a register of the actions of a statuary may seem a heap of uninteresting occurences; but the discerning will not disdain the efforts of a powerful mind, because the writer is not ennobled by birth, or dignified by station.
The man who raises himself by consummate merit in his profession to the notice of princes, who converses with them in a language dictated by honest freedom, who scruples not to tell them those truths which they must despair to hear from courtiers and favourites, from
minions and parasites, is a bold leveller of distinctions in the courts of powerful monarchs. Genius is the parent of truth and courage; and these, united, dread no opposition.
The Tuscan language is greatly admired for its elegance,
and the meanest inhabitants of Florence speak a dialect which the rest of Italy are proud to imitate. The style of Cellini, though plain and familiar, is vigorous and energetic. He possesses, to an uncommon degree, strength of expression, and rapidity of fancy. Dr. Nugent seems to have carefully studied his author, and to have translated him with ease and freedom, as well as truth and fidelity.*
* Dr. Nugent's translation was published in 1771, two vols. 8vo. by T. Davies. This article, which was first inserted in Dr. Johnson's works by Sir John Hawkins, I am unwilling to disturb, although it has very little of the Doctor's manner. Is is not noticed by Mr. Boswell in his “ Chronological Catalogue,” of Dr. Johnson's prose works.
VIEW OF THE CONTROVERSY
MONS. CROUSAZ AND MR. WARBURTON,
ON THE SUBJECT OF
MR. Pope's ESSAY ON MAN.
In a Letter to the Editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, Vol.
It would not be found useless in the learned world, if in written controversies as in oral disputations, a moderator could be selected, who might in some degree sun perintend the debate, restrain all needless excursions, repress all personal reflections, and at last recapitulate the arguments on each side ; and who, though he should not assume the province of deciding the question, might at least exhibit it in its true state.
This reflection arose in my mind upon the consideration of Mr. Crousaz's Commentary on the Essay on Man, and Mr. Warburton's answer to it. The importance of the subject, the reputation and abilities of the controvertists, and perhaps the ardour with which each has endeavoured to support his cause, have made an attempt
of this kind necessary for the information of the greatest number of Mr. Pope's readers.
Among the duties of a moderator, I have mentioned that of recalling the disputants to the subject, and cutting off the excresences of a debate, which Mr. Crousaz will not suffer to be long unemployed, and the repression of personal invectives which have not been very carefully avoided on either part ; and are less excusable, because it has not been proved, that either the poet; or his commentator, wrote with any other design than that of promoting happiness by cultivating reason and piety.'
Mr. Warburton has indeed so much depressed the character of his adversary, that before I consider the controversy between them, I think it necessary to exhibit some specimens of Mr. Crousaz's sentiments, by which it will probably be shewn, that he is far from deserving either indignation or contempt; that his notions are just, though they are sometimes introduced without necessity; and defended when they are not opposed ; and that his abilities and parts are such as may entitle him to reverence froin those who think his criticisms superfluous.
In page thirty five of the English translation, he exhibits an observation which every writer ought to impress upon his mind, and which may afford a sufficient apology for his commentary.
On the notion of a ruling passion he offers this remark; “ Nothing so much hinders men from obtaining a complete victory over their ruling passion, as that all the advantages gained in their days of retreat, by just and sober reflections, whether struck out by their own minds, or borrowed from good books, or from the conversation of